Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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Russo Report: Northeast Region’s 2020 Legislative Breakfast

An estimated 100 retirees and guests gathered at Mohegan Sun to exchange stories and reminisce about times past. Master of Ceremonies and NE Region President Annette Palutis welcomed all. In addition to introducing each speaker she shared many anecdotes of past political challenges reminding all that our past requires that all education retirees must stay engaged in the fight to protect hard won benefits.


The main speaker was US Senator Pat Casey who was described as “not only a wonderful Senator but a wonderful person.” Senator Casey explained how difficult it has become to promote the cause of public education. He explained that much of what we have accomplished is under attack. He emphasized what he categorized as the five freedoms that all citizens (especially children) are entitled: good health, financial security, free to learn, freedom from hunger and safe from harm. He noted “not funding education robs a child of justice.” He concluded by giving examples of the shortfalls in investing in teachers and professional development.


Also present were representatives of Rep. Matt Cartwright and Gov. Tom Wolf.


Present and commenting of current legislative issues’ goals and their present priority issues were Senator John Blake [D-22] who sits on the PSERS Board, explained we have a friend in Governor Wolf; brought attention to the state’s 34% funding of education; and the need to increase the state’s commitment to funding our retirement system.


Rep. Kyle Mullin [D-112] applauded the “incredible passion and dedication” of public school employees. He stated that working on education issues was “very personal” and he is committed to increase the minimum state salary.


Rep. Bridget Malloy Kosierowski [D-114] stated she hopes she can do for us what we have done for her. She expressed her commitment to the cause of public education.


Rep. Maureen Madden [D-115] as an educator herself, stated her support for our advocacy for educators, students and retirees. She sees as an important priority adding school counselors and equitable school funding.


Tarah Toohil [R-116] is proud of being the prime sponsor of HB 1545, which if passed would increase the minimum teacher salary. She reminded those present that it has been 19 years since the last COLA and she pledged to work with retires to protect and secure our pensions.


Karen Boback [R-117] reminisced about her 33 years as a practicing educator. She explained her advocacy for our issues and her efforts to create and maintain safe schools.


Mike Carroll [D-118] thanked those in attendance for “all you have done.” He explained how difficult it was to “move forward the cause of public education.” He emphasized the need to properly fund education. He explained that property taxes go up because the state is remiss in its financial responsibilities.


Rep. Aaron Kaufer [R-120] recently married listed his priorities as safe schools, sub-contracting reform, increased education funding, paying down pension debt, expanding mental health services and community centers and after school programs for kids.


Eddie “Day” Pashinski [D-121] noted the unity and cooperation of the Northeast legislative delegation. He reminisced about the passage of Act 195 and the March on Harrisburg on March 4,1968. He stated public schools are the reason this country is great and why we must commit ourselves to the fight against the “dismantling of the public school system.” He ended by reminded all of they all have an obligation to “TURN OUT TO VOTE.”


Those present were very appreciative of the sincere, straight forward presentations made by our elected leaders. Their candor and ability to articulate the issues of our time and their commitment to improving the lives of constituents was refreshing and well received. All agreed that the inability to fund a COLA was an issue that has gone for far too long.


Our public servants were clear in expressing the honor they felt by being chosen to serve the people of their districts. It is now up to all of us to help them do the best job possible.


Philip Russo


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